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‘Fear is a complex emotion’ says Hugh Mackay in the article “Be afraid of those who go for war too easily” from The Age. This article focuses on the issue of terrorism and the so called “war against terrorism”. The article is jam packed with persuasive techniques. Perhaps the most frequently used technique is the use of alliteration and repetition.

He begins the article discussing the federal election, and ties it to the concept of fear by saying the following.

It is an extraordinary thought that a federal election campaign in a country like Australia - remote, peaceful, tolerant (though decreasingly so), hospitable (though decreasingly so), safe, secure and prosperous - could be hijacked by hatred and fear.

The clever use of metaphors such as ‘hijacked by hatred and fear’ is linked to the main subject of terrorism and conjures up images in the readers mind. Hugh Mackay uses analogy and strong emotive words when referring to Australia and it’s government. He describes Australia using positive words; While using negative words such as unpopular, divisive and high-taxing to describe the government. Even when saying positive things about Australia he writes ‘though decreasingly so’ in parenthesis, in reference to the tolerance and hospitality of Australia. This lays all the blame on the government, and makes his opinions of the government fairly clear.

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While the authorities are thought to be the main contributing factor, Hugh Mackay focuses on the idea of fear also playing a strong part. He stuns the reader with his use of wild, vivid adjectives and causes the reader to think more carefully on the issue. He uses scintillating alliterations such as ‘freaked by their fear’ to draw the reader’s attention, persuade them to read on and provide an indirect lead to the next paragraph.

At the beginning of the article he does not it make it exactly clear what the article is about, but rather leaves little hints to make the reader think and read on. In the second paragraph, he goes on talk about fear being a complex emotion, but only gives two main examples of fear as to keep the article brief and interesting. He uses the concept of fear itself as an indirect lead to the fear of terrorism. In the first half of the article the mood is colloquial and comparative. Hugh Mackay’s style heavily uses imagery and symbolism. His main strategy is to control the focus and the thoughts of the reader, by doing this he can control the direction in which the reader thinks. He literally invites the reader into the article by presenting the argument on a personal, second person point of view level. He is basically trying to say ‘listen to me, because i’m on your side’.

The structure of the article is well set out and is clearly broken up into three sections. It allows Hugh Mackay to outline the problem; allocate the blame and then finally offer a solution. Hugh Mackay flows smoothly between paragraphs and always uses a good lead to progress to the next section. This theme is maintained while extending the progression of the argument. As the main argument begins to develop, Hugh Mackay uses colloquial language with two consecutive rhetorical questions in the same sentence to provide a breathing space in the argument. It causes the reader to stop, and think about the possible answers, giving way to the construction of a new section.

His language use and choice of words are of a high standard aiming at older readers who are well educated. Sophisticated words like amorphous, divisive and conventional outline his use of language. Imagery plays a strong part in the making of this argument. Imagery is mostly portrayed via the use of metaphors. Words such as paralysed, freaked and hijacked all give the sense of danger and possible distress. Later on in the article, Hugh Mackay exaggerates the use of imagery. He strongly outlines the idea of death, blood, devastation and suffering. This use of imagery depicts the negative side of war. By attacking the readers conscience in this way, he makes a successful attempt to show that war is bad.

The rhythm and movement of the argument is shifted up a gear when Hugh Mackay deploys ‘Be afraid’ at the start of each sentence. This is a crystal clear example of repetition. Hugh Mackay states that we should ‘Be afraid of those who present a complex truth as if it is simple.’ This suggests that we are only being shown a small portion of the big picture. He also says that we should

Be afraid of the motives of a federal minister recklessly announcing Australia ranks third in the world as a terrorism target, as if out fears needed refueling...and as if some terrorist had mailed him a hit-list.

This suggests that we are being exploited for political gain. If we get “paralysed by fear” at the thought of terrorism, and then we get told that we are participating in a glorious war dedicated to stopping the threat of terrorism in it’s tracks, we are likely to support the idea.

While focusing on fear and generally mocking the government, Hugh Mackay mentions the federal election campaign at the start, middle and end of the article. This strategy ties the election campaign remotely to the main argument. His title suggests that we should be afraid of the government, because they are the ones going for war too easily. So in a sense he is saying war is bad, and the government is evil because they are declaring war too easily, so be careful who you vote for in the election.

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